When Flight, Temple’s on-demand evening shuttle service, first launched in March 2016, it didn’t take long for students to pick out one major flaw: the wait times for buses were too long.
More than a year after Flight was first introduced, Temple Police and Campus Operations have teamed up to finally alleviate the problem.
Mark Gottlieb, the associate director of operations and logistics, Eileen Bradley, captain of special services for Campus Safety Services and Charlie Leone, the executive director of Campus Safety Services, spent this past summer searching for a Flight supervisor to handle the service’s issues. This is an addition they hope will solve those long wait times, which were still major problems during the 2016-17 academic year.
“The improvements in Flight are pretty much focused on the supervision side of the ledger,” Gottlieb said.
This supervisor will work from a Campus Safety office and monitor the Flight system in real time, Gottlieb added.
The supervisor, who they hope to hire early this semester, will oversee the bus drivers during Flight’s hours of operation, which run from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. until Nov. 4.
“We want to make sure [drivers] are fulfilling their end of the bargain by completing their runs in an efficient and professional manner,” Gottlieb said. “And without that kind of supervision, it leaves open the possibility that they are taking longer routes or that they are possibly missing passengers en route that they should have picked up.”
The supervisor will also be available to answer any questions that students have and fix any issues that arise during Flight’s hours of operation. That service is something that Gottlieb and Bradley both hope students take advantage of, especially in the first couple weeks of the school year.
“The students are our customers,” Bradley said. “If they aren’t happy, we want to know about it and we want to know as soon as we can so we can correct it.”
Some students appreciate the effort Temple is taking to try and fix the issues with Flight, but have doubts that a supervisor is the solution.
Hannah Shippas, a sophomore biology major, has experienced long wait times and glitches within the TapRide app, which students use to call Flight. Shippas has received a notification from the app that her ride was outside when it really wouldn’t be there for another 10 minutes.
“I would hope they would add more buses,” Shippas said. “Or maybe, if Temple really cares about service, they should pay Uber or Lyft a certain amount each year so we can get a quicker ride. It could support local business and keep people safe when riding home.”
Last spring, Temple added the “TECH Express,” which shuttles students from the TECH Center to cut wait times for the existing five Flight buses. This bus will run from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m. and will take students from the TECH Center or Paley Library to the athletic fields or their off-campus houses without them having to go through the TapRide app, Bradley and Gottlieb said.
They started looking for ways to improve Flight in October 2016. In addition to talking to other universities with similar services like the University of Chicago and Wayne State University, they also asked students to test the shuttle service and submit an electronic report on their experience, which prompted a meeting with the company and bus drivers.
Those students, referred to as “secret shoppers” will also help during the first two weeks of the fall semester to point out any issues with the system.
In 2015, Temple Student Government advocated for the creation of Flight. Now, TSG is less involved in the daily operations of Flight and their main responsibility is to market the program to students, said Tyrell Mann-Barnes, the student body president.
“Our focus as Temple Student Government is continuously expand Flight and make sure students know they can utilize that resource on campus,” Mann-Barnes said. “Basically we’re just marketing it to students,”
Mann-Barnes emphasized that students who want an alternative to Flight can also utilize Temple Police’s Walking Escort program, which allows students to call TUPD between 4 p.m. and 6 a.m. Students who call for the service will be met by a Temple Police officer wherever they are on or off campus and walked to their desired location to ensure the student’s safety.
Gottlieb and Bradley recommend all students to email them directly or call the supervisor once the position is filled if they have any problems with the service.
“We are going to be looking at the data on a daily basis to see what the issues are and to stay on top of it,” Bradley said. “This is a very important service for the students and I’ve worked hard on this because this is a big improvement in safety.”
Gillian McGoldrick contributed reporting.